CB 7 Members, Upper West Siders Back Amsterdam Ave Protected Bikeway

Image: DOT

The room was packed last night for DOT’s long-awaited plan for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side [PDF], with about 120 people turning out at the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee meeting. Most residents and committee members praised the plan, though no vote was held. DOT says it could implement the redesign between 72nd Street and 110th Street as soon as next spring.

The plan calls for a protected bike lane on the left side of the street, as well as pedestrian islands and various left turn treatments, including dedicated bike signals and motor vehicle turn bays at 79th Street, 86th Street and 96th Street. One motor vehicle lane and about 25 percent of the corridor’s on-street parking spaces would be repurposed.

With four motor vehicle moving lanes, Amsterdam is not designed like a neighborhood street. There were 513 traffic injuries, including 36 severe injuries, and two fatalities on the street between 2009 and 2013. When it’s not rush hour, 59 percent of drivers exceed the speed limit. Local residents have mobilized for many years to get the city to improve safety on Amsterdam. In July, CB 7 voted for the third time in six years to request action from the city on a protected bike lane on the street.

Despite those votes, transportation committee co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert have consistently tried to stall street safety initiatives. At last night’s meeting, Zweig and Albert stayed mostly quiet while their fellow committee members expressed strong support for DOT’s redesign.

Six of the nine committee members expressed support for the proposal. “If we’re going to achieve Vision Zero, we need a new vision for our streets, and I think this takes us a long way there,” said committee member Ken Coughlin, urging DOT to move swiftly on the proposal. “If the health department came to us and there was an epidemic and they said, ‘Well we have this vaccine that’s going to stop it,’ why would they wait three or four months to implement it?”

The audience expressed overwhelming support for DOT and its proposal. Out of the 30 or so people who spoke during the public testimony, only a few were against the plan. Much of the opposition focused on the supposed ineffectiveness of the existing Columbus Avenue bike lane. But that design has led to a decrease in injuries while the retail environment of the street remains as strong as ever.

Families for Safe Streets’ Mary Beth Kelly, who has been a stalwart advocate for safe streets since her husband was killed nine years ago while cycling on the Hudson River Parkway, expressed her gratitude to DOT for the proposal. “We as a compassionate city should never ever allow this,” she told the committee. “If we know that there are answers to be found in creating boulevards like this … we have no possible morally correct answer but to do it.”

DOT has promised to come back in January with a plan that reflects feedback heard at last night’s meeting, but DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg spoke confidently about the current proposal. “I just want to say how proud I am of our team,” she told the audience. Speaking after the meeting, Trottenberg expressed a commitment to implement the proposal in the spring: “Knowing the community has waited a long time for this, we are hoping to get it up as soon as possible.”

DOT officials told the audience last night they hope to get a vote of support from CB 7 and begin construction in the spring of 2016.

Still, residents expressed frustration with the years-long process, urging swifter action by the community board and DOT. “My greatest fear is that we’re going to wait to put in those safety improvements until someone dies,” Willow Stelzer told the committee.

A number of attendees also expressed concerns that DOT is leaving Amsterdam Avenue below 72nd and above 110th for later proposals. Once the bike lane is impemented in the corridor in question, DOT will begin to develop Phase 2 of the redesign, south of 72nd. “We know we can make north of 72nd work,” DOT’s Sean Quinn told the audience, but any improvements to the south will require input from community members and businesses in that area.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal endorsed a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue in April. “I was so happy to see the very well-thought-out proposal,” Rosenthal said last night. “And I was interested to hear the community board’s questions and the community’s feedback — all of which was constructive.”

CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo remained non-committal on the proposal, but expressed a desire to move forward with last night’s community feedback. “I think it was a great diversity of opinion and we look forward to working to implement the feedback into the plan,” she said.

  • BBnet3000

    If only it met the minimum width recommended by NACTO for a high volume cycletrack. We need to demand the highest quality facilities we can, because these will never be upgraded once they have been installed.

    If you have rode on 1st Avenue during busy times, do you really think its as good as it can be, especially as it pertains to overtaking?

    The totally unprotected treatment these get at busy intersections is also awful. Look at 2nd Ave and 14th St. There is a divider between the straight and turn lanes for cars, but not between the bike lane and the turn lanes. Drivers intrude into the bike lane all the time and it is wearing off the road where it is needed most. Just awful. Expect more of the same unless somebody speaks up. Expect these lanes to be removed by a future mayor unless they are of a high enough quality to really make people feel comfortable.

  • Alex

    Necessary, vital project. With that said….I have to say I just don’t like the design template the DOT is using for these lanes. I’ve ridden in everything and have a pretty thick skin. I just don’t
    feel good enough in most of these lanes the way they are currently
    designed.

    1) The split phases serve to interrupt casual speed bike traffic into advancing only a few blocks at a time, encouraging speeding to try to get from one major cross street to another, and frankly exposing pedestrians to un-buffered bike traffic if they step off the curb outside of the crosswalk. I had a close encounter with a pedestrian that has left me injured for the last year and a half in the “protected” bike lane on 9th. The pain often prevents me from riding, and I’ve had to alter my bike and probably do need to simply stop for months of physical therapy.

    2) The mixing zones for every left turn are unnecessary for the tiny amount of turning volume in a residential neighborhood like the UWS. We need traffic calming on Amsterdam, and abolishing the mixing zone and creating the need for 90 degree turns is the way to do it. It prevents the loss of parking (which is apparently important to the community), the need for a split phase, and not to mention that most people don’t consider the mixing zones “protected” from traffic. Indeed it’s quite the opposite as you go from Class 1 to 3 every two blocks.

    3) Lastly, and this is only partially related to the design. But the presenter mentioned several times that Amsterdam phasing is favorable for traffic flowing quickly through the avenue. I was honestly hoping the plan would slow traffic down significantly, not install all kinds of defensive mechanisms to keep it moving at currently illegal speeds. Amsterdam and 96th is at .91 during peak rush because traffic moves so quickly it groups at any bottleneck. Reducing that does entail easing flow through that intersection, but it also means that you should slow traffic down so it doesn’t group that way.

    I do think that Amsterdam could have had a much more ambitious plan with a protected bike lane, a bus lane, and even a road diet to go from 3/4 lanes like Columbus to 2/3 lanes like West End. This is achievable with the following use of 60ft.

    West |Parking|–Thru–|–Thru–|–Bus–|Median|Bikenyc| East

    You get the median for bus stops/loading/parking, an enforced bus lane with bus/bike timed no turning conflict lights, two through lanes with turning bays in the parking lane for lefts/rights. Amsterdam needs no more than this. The point is not to speed through to leave the city, it’s a residential area. Narrowing from 4 to 3 lanes will help speeding somewhat but remember the lanes were already 10 feet and the speeding was happening on 4 and will happen on 3. Eliminating turning conflicts by either putting them in the protected bike lane or by making bikes stop at lights that usually aren’t being turned through by cutting their signal in half isn’t a great design.

  • Drivin’ Here!

    It would be a big mistake to go forward to this plan before we hear from everyone who may oppose it. Once we are sure that absolutely no one is against it, we can move forward in phases. First implement on 5-10 blocks, study it for 2 years, then move to the next 5-10 blocks, and so on.

    I’m not against bikes, but we need to do this correctly. Not shove it down people’s throats (even if their throats are 6 lanes wide).

    Let’s not forget, this isn’t Amsterdam! It’s only Amsterdam Avenue.

  • r

    This is a good-for-now plan and I’m glad DOT is finally going to fix this street to make it safer. It’s probably all DOT thought it could achieve, though I do agree that they need to be more forward-thinking. They’re still building bike lanes for 2011, when they ought to be building bike lanes for 2030. This width and configuration won’t be able to accommodate the huge uptick in cycling that’s bound to happen in the coming years.

  • Alex

    Agreed re: 2030 style infrastructure. Also true for bus lanes imo. Looking at my crude design above I thought what if we alternately had parking protected bus lanes and better designed protected bike lanes in more ambitious future road diets?

  • DRDV

    And now Rosenthal and the anti-safety Zweig will do everything they can to slow down the project. This is a woman who thinks it’s so “constructive” to hear the “community’s feedback” that she responds with sneering contempt to the grieving family members who lost loved ones because of the policies supported by the man (Zweig) she reappointed to the CB.

    This is how “constructive” Helen Rosenthal thinks it is to listen to “the community’s feedback” about safe streets:

    ——-
    Eventually, Rosenthal responded with “passive-aggressive sarcasm,” according to Steve Vaccaro, who was at the meeting.

    “She was visibly angered and flustered,” Sladkus said.

    “We all feel like we’ve been told to shut up and go away,” Kelly
    said. “When you’ve lost somebody, you’re not just going to go away. It
    means too much.”

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/04/28/uws-residents-ask-helen-rosenthal-why-she-kept-street-safety-foe-on-cb-7/
    ——-

    Every day she and her safe-streets-hating buddy Zweig are in office, Upper West Siders are in danger. She needs to be primaried — and she certainly should not be allowed to dishonestly run as a supporter of safe streets.

  • walks bikes drives

    Dude, you are so way off base. There is no possible way that the study could be accomplished in a mere two years. Learn from the past, brother. We need a minimum of six years, plus numerous community board input sessions (read- votes in support of) in order to effectively guage each segment. And since this is the first time DOT is implementing a bike lane, and it is not like this design looks like every other design they have come out with that includes mixing zones, we need to study it VERY carefully.

  • BBnet3000

    Still, at the very end of the 50-meeting, 6 year community input session, there will be people at the last meeting who insist that the community has never been told about this project and that its “coming out of nowhere” and “moving too fast”. We need to consider a 10 year input process with a 15 year rollout timeframe. Anything less would be undemocratic.

  • gneiss

    And don’t forget that each segment needs it’s very own Environmental Impact Statement assessment. After all, we can’t be too cautious in gauging how much car and truck pollution might be caused by the potential increase in traffic generated that could occur over the next twenty years.

  • J

    Pretty sure this was sarcasm. 🙂

  • Maggie

    I liked it. Room for improvement – it’ll be heavily banked, right? – but such a leaps-and-bounds improvement. Thank you, DOT.

  • J

    Protected Intersections are the new standard for bicycle intersection design, but DOT seems to be doubling down on their 2009 “mixing zone” design. Not sure why. Since JSK left, the engineers at DOT seem to think that the current designs work great and refuse to look outside the city for design expertise. Such arrogance and laziness.

  • Alex

    NACTO still has the mixing zone drudgery: http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/intersection-treatments/cycle-track-intersection-approach/
    Any linkage on the protected intersection? I’m going to email the board and try to elevate to the Borough Commissioner.

  • Walter Crunch

    Two total travel lanes would still be better. Three will simply incite unsafe driving.

  • Walter Crunch

    If you are incapable of navigating three lanes, you are incapable of driving.

  • Walter Crunch

    Protected, while incredible, arent’ “the standard”. They are a feature of one city in this country. One city that most east coast designers don’t even consider a city. One city that uses a numbering system for street names.

    That’s leaving out all the other weirdness of SLC.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    NYCDOT has mandate from electeds to create a miserly 5 miles of protected bike lanes annually. This project is 2 miles. The electeds should increase the mandate to 50 miles annually. 50 miles

    Sounds like a lot, huh ? Until you realize the city has 6,000 miles of streets At 50 miles per year would take 10 years to add 500 miles, less than 10% of the city would have protected bike lanes.

  • walks bikes drives

    Told about what? I haven’t heard anything about it. No one came knocking on my door to tell me anything.

  • J

    Overview of protected intersections:

    Intersection design guidance beginning on page 32:
    http://www.massdotinnovation.com/Pdfs/Session2E-SeperatedBikeLanes.pdf

    This design could be applied to both right and left side bike lanes. DOT does left side lanes to avoid conflicts with buses at bus stops, which is smart, but this trick only works on 1-way streets. Long term, it would be good to see NYC’s avenues return to 2-way operation, and there are simple ways to deal with conflicts at bus stops when that happens and for other 2-way streets, but that’s another conversation.

  • walks bikes drives

    So which were you confused on, whether my comment was sarcasm or his? Answer – they both were!

  • J

    Hah! Sarcasm all the way down.

  • walks bikes drives

    The irony is, we are more or less using the truth to be sarcastic.

  • walks bikes drives

    The danger of not removing parking and requiring cars to make that 90 degree turn like that, you will increase, rather than decrease, the number of left or right hook collisions. You have be removing any possible drive review of cyclist until the moment of the turn. With the way people drive, instead of taking a more cautious turn, there will instead be an uptick in collisions. Somehow, someway, the intersections must be daylighted.

  • Alex

    Good point, though my idea would be to have a pedestrian island just like they do on east-bound streets perhaps with additional daylighting, but not a half block interruption. You can’t swing into a right angle turn like that and each driver would need to slow down (as shown by Brooklyn Spoke’s cone down experiment over the weekend*), moving the cyclist into his/her peripheral view while they cross the bike lane to complete the turn. In the mixing zone the bike approaching behind the car can stay in the car’s blind spot for the entire turn if the car only turns 90 degrees once he’s merged/invaded the bike lane. That’s designed poor behavior and takes 25% of protected space from existing lanes.

    *See his video here and note that his neckdown produces 45 degree turns. A pedestrian island would essentially add a third cone where the bike lanes intersect, further slowing the turn.
    https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/663533397814439936/video/1

  • ahwr

    I can’t see twitter embeds, in case anyone else can’t, delete the space:

    https://twitter.com/ BrooklynSpoke/status/663533397814439936/video/1

    The turns you want don’t work with high volumes of pedestrians, cyclists, and turning vehicles that should be expected for much of the day on a Manhattan avenue. Drivers will get frustrated and move into the bike lane as soon as there’s a gap. They’ll occasionally misjudge a cyclist’s speed and cause a collision. They’ll (hopefully*) stop there and wait for a gap in the likely occupied crosswalk. They’ll push through just the way they do on every other turn in Manhattan without a dedicated turn phase. Only worse do to the additional complication of a third mode (cycling). Add in the likelihood of cyclists responding to the car blocking their lane by swerving into the crosswalk and you’ll piss off pedestrians and put cyclists in a position to be hit by the car trying to push through.

    The turn you want works best in a low density suburb where you have room to jut out the bike lane twenty feet, visibility is high, and traffic levels are low enough that most people approaching the bike-turn lane junction do so when no other vehicle is there to make a conflicting movement.

    To facilitate turns, most of which will not be banned no matter what some posters here might wish, you need a separate phase for turning vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists. Or you need to allow a true mixing zone, have the turn lane and bike lane merge. Much of the time approaching it cyclists will have to turn and go around on the right side of a left turning car to get through the intersection. It will be frustrating and stressful and will keep the lane an unusable facility for…let’s say less assertive potential riders.

    *in case that wasn’t clear hopefully as in not run over pedestrians in the crosswalk, not hopefully they’ll block the bike lane.

  • Alex

    The only thing we’d be sacrificing, in my opinion, is speed. It would be a road diet. Maybe you put a left/straight arrow a straight arrow and a right/straight arrow on the other side to direct traffic. Maybe you give them a second or two more at the end of each light cycle. It’s funny you mention suburb, because the UWS has been (wrongly) referred to as one for years. What is rather low density though, is the amount of drivers who use the side streets. This is not midtown by any means and I would say the majority of people turning at certain times would be those trolling for parking.
    Amsterdam does not need more than two through lanes and turning treatments at certain high volume intersections. The left turn volumes at some of the side streets are very very low, and difficult turns would encourage drivers to not look for shortcuts on residential streets.

  • ahwr

    The only thing we’d be sacrificing, in my opinion, is speed. It would be a road diet. Maybe you put a left/straight arrow a straight arrow and a right/straight arrow on the other side to direct traffic.

    I don’t understand what the arrows you are referring to here would be.

    What is rather low density though, is the amount of drivers who use the side streets

    Then the separate signal phase for turning drivers can be short. Or you can have a mixing zone and cyclists won’t have as much trouble getting around the merging drivers as they would where turning volumes are higher. There won’t be room for them to queue up without blocking the bike lane. So they’ll block it while waiting for the crosswalk to clear.

    I would say the majority of people turning at certain times would be those trolling for parking.

    You mean frustrated drivers who have been down the block three times in the last five minutes and don’t feel like waiting twenty seconds for a clear spot to turn when they can just push through right away?

  • Drivin’ Here!

    You couldn’t have said it more accurately. These bike lanes are highly experimental and have never been tried anywhere else in the world (the world ends at W. 59th St, btw). We have no data on how this will play out in the long run.

    The same thing was done with the rollout of CitiBike: The program was implemented before they could gather enough reliable data showing exactly how many bike accidents would occur. Let alone predict the specific location and time of day of each accident. But they went ahead with it anyway! At least for cars we have loads of data from all over the world (1.2 million fatalities a year!) I feel far safer with more cars on the street.

    They are using as lab rats and guinea pigs!

  • Maani

    I’m immensely curious about something here. On slide #12 of the DOT presentation, something caught my eye. The slide is titled (and this is “sic”), “Protected Bicycle Lanes with 3 yrs of After Data: Before and After,” and gives the reduction in injuries based on the installation of protected bike lanes. Here is the data:

    Crashes with injuries – down 17%
    Motor vehicle occupant injuries – down 25%
    Pedestrian injuries – down 22%
    Cyclist injuries – down 2%.

    Yup, you read that correctly: 2%. So if the installation of protected bike lanes only provides a 2% better chance of not being injured, why are all you cyclists so hellbent on having them? Just wondering.

  • Joe R.

    Protected bike lanes get a greater cross section of the general population riding. Without them, it’s mainly the fit and brave who ride.

    I’m personally lukewarm on protected bike lanes. They’re a good fit on streets with very infrequent intersections but that’s not most of NYC’s streets. On streets with many intersections, they only offer protection in between the intersections. I’ve said multiple times NYC may need to invent some bike infrastructure suited to the conditions here, in addition to borrowing what works elsewhere when it’s applicable. Bottom line, protected bike lanes have their uses but they’re not the be all and end all to bike infrastructure. “Perfect” bike infrastructure would have no cars, no pedestrians, no traffic signals or stop signs, room for passing, and it would also go to where cyclists want to go. NYC has a long way to go to reach this ideal.

  • ahwr

    Those are raw numbers, not rates. Did you read this on that same slide?

    Cyclist injuries show a minor improvement even as bicycle volumes have dramatically increased

  • Alexander Vucelic

    volume has Trippled

  • Andrew

    Others have already answered your question, but I’m curious why you assume that the only people who want bike lanes are cyclists. I, for instance, am a pedestrian, and a 22% reduction in pedestrian injuries is definitely something I want to see.

    I don’t think any of those stats can be called “chaos,” despite your dire predictions of 2010. On the contrary, they’re quite good.

  • Maani

    I would initially suggest that your reading comprehension is poor, as I was specifically addressing cyclists because I wanted to hear from cyclists. If I had wanted to hear from pedestrians, I do know how to spell and type the word “pedestrians.” But since I know that your reading comprehension is NOT poor, I can only surmise that you simply could not refrain from responding to me anyway, and in a snarky manner. It is who you are.

    As for my “dire” predictions, you clearly also have a tendency toward the hyperbolic. None of my predictions were “dire”; they were simply predictions. With respect to congestion, my prediction has actually come to pass: one need only ride on Columbus Avenue (which I do daily) to see that congestion has NOT eased as a result of the bike lane, and has, in fact, increased at some times of day on some days. I also predicted that “if delivery bikers use it, they will use it to protect themselves going the wrong way.” This, too, has come to pass – more so even than I predicted: I have done surveys of the bike lane on various days at various times of day for an hour or two each time, and have found that, on average, fully one-third to one-half of bicycle traffic in the bike lane is delivery bikers going the wrong way.

    As always, nice try.

  • Maani

    You are confusing Columbus and Amsterdam. Volume has tripled on Amsterdam, not Columbus – which is actually to my point: it has tripled on the avenue WITHOUT a bike lane, NOT on the one WITH a bike lane. And “tripling” from 18 bikes an hour to 50 bikes an hour – in 8 years! – is not exactly earth-shattering. Meanwhile, over on Columbus, where there IS a bike lane, volume has risen from 40 bikes an hour to 60 bikes an hour during the same period. Hmmm…

  • Maani

    As I noted above to Alexander, the “dramatic” increase is nothing of the sort when looked at in detail.

  • Andrew

    I would initially suggest that your reading comprehension is poor, as I was specifically addressing cyclists because I wanted to hear from cyclists. If I had wanted to hear from pedestrians, I do know how to spell and type the word “pedestrians.” But since I know that your reading comprehension is NOT poor, I can only surmise that you simply could not refrain from responding to me anyway, and in a snarky manner. It is who you are.

    Excuse me for expressing my opinion. You seemed to imply that only cyclists want bike lanes, so I was simply pointing out that it isn’t only cyclists who want bike lanes. If that wasn’t your intent, then kindly ignore my response that some pedestrians also want bike lanes.

    As for my “dire” predictions, you clearly also have a tendency toward the hyperbolic. None of my predictions were “dire”; they were si mply predictions.

    I think my description was fair.

    With respect to congestion, my prediction has actually come to pass: one need only ride on Columbus Avenue (which I do daily) to see that congestion has NOT eased as a result of the bike lane, and has, in fact, increased at some times of day on some days.

    You’ll have to pardon me for not taking your word for it, since in my experience Columbus Avenue is perfectly uncongested for most of the day, as it was before the bike lane was installed. When DOT compared travel times in the AM rush, the outcome was a 35% decrease.

    I also predicted that “if delivery bikers use it, they will use it to protect themselves going the wrong way.” This, too, has come to pass – more so even than I predicted: I have done surveys of the bike lane on various days at various times of day for an hour or two each time, and have found that, on average, fully one-third to one-half of bicycle traffic in the bike lane is delivery bikers going the wrong way.

    If you’re terribly concerned about wrong-way (northbound) cyclists on Columbus, then presumably you’re an advocate for a northbound bike lane on Amsterdam?

    Personally, I don’t get all bent out of shape by wrong-way cyclists (if anything, it seems like it annoys other cyclists more than anybody else). You know what does make me angry? Motorists who speed and who fail to yield to pedestrians, who actually threaten my life and the lives of my neighbors. Given that police enforcement of speeding and yielding laws is negligible (the 20th Precinct, for instance, issued 36 tickets for speeding and a whopping SIX for failure to yield to a pedestrian in all of September 2015), we have to rely on other means of reducing dangerous driving, such as redesigning our streets so as not to resemble highways and slightly reducing crossing distances for pedestrians.

    Or do you have a better suggestion? Because the status quo can’t stand.

  • Andrew

    The 2% reduction in cyclist injuries was for Manhattan protected bike lanes in general, not specifically for Columbus Avenue.

    The Columbus Avenue bike lane reduced cyclist risk by 37.6%, and crashes with injuries were reduced by 27% even as bicycle volumes rose by 51%.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the DOT numbers are Wrong. Independent bike Counts in CBD Indicate hike traffic Is between 10% -20% of roadway traffic.

    Bike traffic in CBD exceeds private Car traffic in Much of CBD

  • bolwerk

    I’m a cyclist and pedestrian, depending on time of year, my needs, and my mood. I want protected bike lanes because they make riding more pleasant, logically separate different kinds of traffic, and reduce exposure to motorized vehicles. Motorists probably like grade-separated highways for many of the same reasons.

    I don’t see what is so surprising about that 2% number. Cyclists have to be more risk-averse than motorists, or we die. Contrary to stereotypes, we tend to be quite cautious in mixed traffic, so there is probably little in the way of injury (for us) to reduce when moving from mixed traffic to a protected bike lane. Some injuries, like scraped knees, can happen regardless of where you cycle. Cautious doesn’t always mean “legal,” but in our interactions with cars we have the same power imbalance as pedestrians without the maneuverability. In our interactions with pedestrians, we don’t have much of a physical power imbalance, and risk being punched in the face when our behavior is antisocial.

    Also, though the sentiment is probably not returned so much, we don’t want motorists to die either.

  • fdtutf

    As Andrew noted in another comment, bicycle volumes rose by 51%. That’s dramatic by any measure. Except the measure of those who have an axe to grind.

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